Ever wonder what puts someone on the path to long distance running?
It's not always high school and college sports. Most runners don't follow a straight line that goes from running 5K fun runs to marathons and ultras.
Instead, the long distance running crowd typically makes their way to the starting line after some:
Virginia resident John Calabrese wasn't always into long distance running.
And then he stepped into one of those pivotal life experiences that changes everything.
About five years ago, he laced up his running shoes for some long distance running. And now he's hungry to run the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon in Death Valley, Calif.
Love long distance running? Or thinking about moving up to a 10K, half marathon, marathon or even an ultra?
Here's a peek into the mind of long distance running fan John Calabrese:
John: I was going through a divorce. I wasn't really in shape at all. Mentally, I was beat down.
I started running to mentally unpack stuff. Long distance running really started as a way to improve my mental health, and I've never looked back.
That was about five years ago. I started with marathons. Then started running ultras. Next year, I'm trying to get into Badwater 135.
John: I ran the Newport News Marathon in 2017, and finished with a four-hour marathon.
But I really didn't know anything about marathon training.
I was well-trained, but it still hurt pretty bad. After that, I decided to stick with long-distance running.
John: I don't have one, but I have a closet full of running shoes.
I've worked at a couple different local running stores. And I learned a lot about running shoes doing that.
Right now I'm rotating through:
Last year I ran about 4,000 miles. But during the pandemic in 2020, I ran about 5,000 miles.
John: Lucky Road Run Shop in Richmond, Va. I used to work there, and I'm still an ambassador for the store.
The owner Jeff Van Horn is a really good guy, and he's a big part of the community and local running clubs.
He really understands that if we can get more people into running, everyone wins because they're healthier and happier.
I love promoting this store and helping them out.
John: It was the first time I ran the Barkley Fall Classic.
It was so hard, I wanted to quit running forever. I wasn't used to the elevation or the mountains.
It's such a hard race, even for experienced runners.
Physically, it was extremely hard. But I also got lost running with a pack of people who didn't know where they were going.
You really need an extreme level of fitness to finish this race, be a good runner, and be mentally strong.
"Long sections of very runnable trail follow on the heels of strength-sapping sections of hills," says Barkley Fall Classic Race Director Lazarus Lake.
"This requires the successful Barkley Fall Classic runner to run, when every fiber of their being cries out for taking things slow to recover."
"The most devastating climbs hit at the runner's weakest moments. Everything is arranged to play on the doubts and weaknesses that exist in all of us. The Barkley Fall Classic runner must not only beat the course to finish, but they must conquer their own darkest fears."
John: So far, it's been tough. I've had three races cancel since the beginning of the year because of winter weather.
(Editor's Note: WeeView's first scheduled call with John was cancelled, because of heavy snow, falling trees, and power outages.)
I really need to race to build strength and endurance for the races later in the year.
John: I've finished five 100-mile races. I'm trying to run three or four 100s this year, because I'm trying to create a good running resume to get into Badwater 135.
Anytime you finish a 100-miler, it's a huge accomplishment. Even if you're well trained, that distance is still really hard.
John: I still use running to unpack stuff in my head, destress. relax, and think about things I need to do.
John: I used to eat a lot of junk food during ultras, but I'm trying to get away from that. Now, I typically eat:
I like to keep my pack and drop bag stocked with this stuff, and the coffee helps me stay awake at night. And I pretty much try and not rely on aid stations.
John: It's definitely been the running clubs. When I first started running, I was part of the Fredericksburg Running Club. I learned a lot from them about things like:
There are a lot of sub-3-hour marathoners in that group, and they helped me a lot.
If you want to be a better runner, find a running group with people you can run with and ask for their advice.
John: When I first started running, I had to take like a week off at a time for different things.
I really hadn't been running long, so I was prone to injuries back then.
Now, when I start to feel like something isn't right, I'll do yoga for a week.
But as soon as I start feeling better, I'm like, "OK, bye. I'm going running again."
John: I was running the multi-day race called the Swami Shuffle 200.
I met up with this guy named Matt Jenkins in the race, and we decided to run together. I knew I could learn a lot from him, because he ran across North Carolina barefoot.
The first night of the race, it got really rainy. So we slept in a public bathroom on the floor by the garbage can for some shelter to get out of the rain.
We even hung up some wet clothes and gear above this vent, and it dried our stuff while we were sleeping.
Average miles per week
Favorite running watches
Favorite hydration pack
Favorite running socks
Running shoes for the day
Favorite running store